This is it: the Washington Redskins’ final week of preseason action, the final audition opportunity for players battling for starting jobs, roster and practice squad spots.
The Redskins still have a few position battles to nail down, and on Tuesday they must get the roster from the current 89 players to 80, then shortly after Thursday’s game, they must slash the roster from 80 to 53, and sign eight players to the practice squad.
Here are five questions that must be answered this week in practice and in the game against Tampa Bay:
1.) Which quarterback separates himself from the other?
John Beck and Rex Grossman have both shined at times, and they have both struggled at times. Mike Shanahan said this is the longest he’s gone into a preseason without declaring a starting quarterback. He likely has an idea of who his guy is, but he wants these two passers to battle down to the final day before the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants – unless, of course, one of them plays substantially better Thursday night against Tampa Bay and clinches the job at that time.
2.) Will LaRon Landry return to action this week?
The Redskins’ dynamic strong safety has gone about the preseason with extreme caution, wanting to ensure that he is ready for the regular season opener, and doesn’t suffer a setback to his left Achilles’ tendon, or his right hamstring. It probably would be a good thing for Landry to get at least some snaps in before the season opener so he can knock off the rust from not having played since midway through last season. But will his body allow him to do so?
3.) Does Ryan Torain still have a shot?
Washington brought in Tim Hightower to compete with Ryan Torain for the starting running back job, but right after he arrived, Torain broke his left hand and has yet to play in a preseason game. Meanwhile, Hightower has impressed both in the running game and pass protection. Mike Shanahan stopped short of naming him the starter, but it looks like it’s going that way. Will Torain get on the field this week to try to change the coach’s mind? Where does he fit in a rotation that will include Hightower and rookie speedster Roy Helu?
4.) Who helps fill the void left by Jarvis Jenkins’s injury?
Shanahan said you just can’t replace a player like rookie defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. He is that big a loss. Adam Carriker will start at left end, but someone must help pick up the slack in that rotation in the base 3-4 packages, and in the “fast nickel” packages – both of which Jenkins played key roles. Is it Darrion Scott, Doug Worthington or Kedric Golston? Barry Cofield owns the nose tackle position, but has been lobbying for time in those pass-rushing, “fast nickel” packages. If he is the best option to line up next to Stephen Bowen in those situations, does that mean increased playing time for backup nose tackle Anthony Bryant? Probably so, as Jim Haslett likes to keep his linemen fresh so they can provide the best pass-rush possible.
5.) How will the roster cuts play out?
Most of the players the Redskins part ways with will be guys even the most loyal fans have a hard time naming, but there could be a few somewhat recognizable names. Most of the meaningful cuts won’t happen until after the Tampa game.